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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  January 28, 2014 4:00pm-5:01pm PST

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eye contact with the camera. once you have committed to the sip, you're all in. look away. if you listen to these tips, you should be okay. now all you have to do is change all those lousy policies. remember to respond is all to deal with content. of what the american people may really want. thanks for watching. i'm al sharpton. i'll see you back here tonight at 9:00 p.m. for our special state of the union coverage. "hardball" starts right now. well, close that bridge when we come to it. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in new york.
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let me start tonight with the latest bad news for new jersey governor chris christie. a report by the state's bergen county record shows that christie's top appointment to the new york port authority which controls the george washington bridge may have committed a conflict of interest in a major development project. the record reports today that david samson also served as christie's transition director approved a quarter billion redevelopment project in harrison, new jersey that benefitted a client of his law firm's. it fits a pattern in the allegations. hoboken mayor dawn zimmer has accused two christie cabinet officials of pressuring her to back a real estate deal that would have benefitted another client of samson's law firm or else forfeit hurricane sandy funds. christie's people have denied all these charges. well, this report in the bergen record comes as christie suffers a major fall off in national political support. putting it bluntly, the nasty political drop is fast catching up with the nasty news reports. a new nbc news/wall street journal poll shows christie underwater politically with an
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unfavorable national rating quickly submerging his favorables. among democrats where christie once promised to benefit from his moderate image, his negatives now outweigh his positives by more than two to one. but it's among independents that we see the real free fall. just one in five of such self-described voters nationally approves of the new jersey governor's performance. a brutal argument against christie's crossover appeal in a 2016 presidential election in which voters may be looking for candidates who can bring healing to the country's politics. joining me to talk about these developments, alex wagner, host of msnbc's "now with alex wagner" which airs at 4:00 p.m. here on msnbc and jonathan capehart, who is also an msnbc contributor and a great one. let's start with the bergen county report. here it is. the headline reads "questions on port authority chairman david samson's path station vote." the revelation marks the third time this month that the role of samson, a close adviser to governor christie who named him
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chairman of the bi-state agency has come into question. the first being the george washington lane closures in ft. lee on charges by dawn zimmer, political pressure muscling to approve a political project. the article goes on to say the development in harrison touches on recurring elements in the pair of scandals that have jolted the christie administration for nearly two months. the power of the port authority of new york and new jersey, and questions about whether it has been used as a tool to exact political punishment or advance private interests. a spokesman for samson told the bergen record that regard to the train station vote record that samson has always held himself to the highest personal and professional standards, including consistently complying with results adopted by the port authority. alex wagner, what is fascinating here is this is the same david samson who was notoriously quoted as saying that pat foye who is the new york official
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overseeing the george washington bridge was playing in traffic, was stirpg trouble because he was alerting the public to the game being played stopping traffic. so this is a guy hand in glove, at least accused of being in the bridge, and now here he is again twice now perhaps again in the problem of hoboken where the muscle apparently was used down there, and now again in this case involving harrison with a quarter billion was laid on this construction project, a client of his, by him in the vote. he votes for the project so that his client benefits. interesting conflict potential there, isn't it? >> well, yeah. chris, at this point there are more chris christie scandals than there are republican responses to the state of the union. and there are a lot of republican responses to the state of the union. >> well, tonight there are, sure. >> i am reminded of that thing that happens when someone, when you find a termite. and there is no such thing as just one termite there is an
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infestation. and with the christie scandals, you know, in the end, it's unclear whether christie will be found guilty of wrongdoing. but as you pointed thought the intro, the two things that he had going for him, which were bipartisanship and strength have now become liabilities. the bipartisanship looks like cronyism. and the strength looks like bullying. given that, i find it hard to believe that he can recover his national profile after all this. >> jonathan, you know what suburbanites hate? big city politics. it's one of the reasons they fled to the suburbs. they can't stand this oh, we're going to punish this guy that doesn't play ball with us, and then we're going give a favor to this guy who is my brother's friend or uncle, or this guy has a law partner or is looking out for mayor. he's going to help me out later on. this big-time deal making that always ends up money changing hands and benefitting your pals who play ball with you. and if they don't play ball with you, you muscle them out of the action. this is what it used to look like among the democrats. maybe it still does in some areas where big city politics seem to engender this kind of
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ilk. and here you this guy accused, all accused here there, but is a pattern of these allegations that has become clear. >> well, it's a pattern of cronyism. and you just defined it very well. and the fact that mr. samson is so close to the governor and now we have three separate allegations here about him using -- using his influence to help clients is something that will eat away at governor -- another foundation of governor christie's strength. and that is as alex talked about, bipartisanship, working across the aisle. here we have more and more looking like that the governor is somebody who isn't all that he seems. and so now you have bridgegate. you've got mayor zimmer's allegations. you now have this with the path station. it's starting to look like a pattern for lack of a better
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description, a pattern of behavior on the part of governor christie and his friends, his administration that like you say will turn off suburban voters, turn off independent voters who want a chief executive who makes decisions based on the merits rather than based on cronyism. >> let's talk about this core of trust that seems to be something christie talks about. this core of trust that he felt was broken. it clearly angered, it angered david samson that anybody on the new york side of the bridge would say what's going on with this bridge. he didn't get angry obviously at the traffic jam-up which was done for political purposes. >> yeah. >> he got mad that somebody was outing them, that somebody was exposing them. and here he is caught saying there is somebody stirring up trouble here by letting people know what was going on, asking about it, playing in traffic, a little joke there about a kid play running through traffic. clearly what bothers this guy is the code of secrecy was violated. but now his name keeps coming up as a character who is
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benefitting from this. his clients are benefitting. that means he is benefitting as an attorney. and he is also being given big jobs, port authority, chairman, head of transition for the governor. he is the governor's guy. can this governor walk away from so many people and say i don't know that guy? >> well, it's very hard to imagine that all the consiglieres were acting without the governor's tacit approval. thing is something to the idea that transit is being used as a sort of political cudgel to punish enemies and reward friends. when you think about the moving of people, this is a public service. this is something that affects every new jerseyite and new york root who does a reverse commute. this is sort of an essential function of government. and the fact that it was bastardized in such a way i think is actually deeply affecting to the public. everybody understands what a traffic jam. everybody understands what mass transport. and that in particular is an aspect of the scandal that is very, very difficult for
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christie. >> we don't have private roads. we have the roads they're supposed to keep open for us. >> exactly. chris, one other thing to keep in mind, when these lane closures hatched was right around the anniversary of the september 11th terrorist attacks. >> it did overlap that period, september 11th. >> so the idea that you're going to bottle up a major transit point for the world's busiest bridge and a terrorist target around the time of a terrorism anniversary, one of the most affecting terrorist attacks on the country and on new york city, the new york metro area, the idea that you were going to do this and then get upset that your scheme has been revealed, and that's what you get upset about, not upset the people who were impacted by this? thank goodness nothing happened during those days. >> well, we'll learn that. >> but that they would play politics not only with the commuters and the school kids, but with people's lives potentially is what is really,
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really offensive. >> well, let's dig in to the national numbers because people are paying attention. i was just out in l.a. and san francisco. people are paying attention to this story. the new nbc news/wall street journal poll. christie has higher unfavorables among the independents and women, groups that used to favor christie. among women, christie's favorables among women have drop downtown to 21%, with 27% unfavorable. no one should be describing christie as a front-runner or cofront-runner for 2016 anymore. sure, he has plenty of time to recover. but when someone who was never loved by the base loses his crossover appeal, that's like holding a pair of 3s in a game of texas hold 'em, which amazes me what that means. but i guess it means something in texas hold 'em. >> it's bad. >> let me ask you, alex wagner, this question here. if christie can't sell himself to the middle and to women and to the democrats to some lean extent, where is his strength? and aren't the republicans a little nervous that this guy is bopping around the country now acting like one of those -- you
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know those characters in cartoons where they walk off a cliff but they don't look down? the moment they look down that. >> fall. watch this. here is this guy. >> the wile e. coyote. >> this it is. >> it's like he is doing that. >> but isn't this hurting the republican brand? >> yes. i mean yes. he has dropped 42 points among african americans. he has an 11% approval rating with hispanics who won by a margin of six points in the last election. atrophy is this notion that he has this broad coalition. and i think that was the sort of last best hope for the republican party was someone like chris christie who could have a bipartisan coalition, a colorful coalition, and someone who didn't alienate minorities. here he is head of the rga. i don't think it's surprising that you're getting calls from the republican party for chris christie to step down as head of the rga. is this the guy you really want raising money for you and the face of your party for 2014, 2016 and beyond. >> well, it tells you something,
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jonathan, that they don't have a backup quarterback, do they. >>. no. >> this is the guy that was supposed to score for them. and there is nobody even on the bench that i can think of as a serious front-runner at this point. i think it may resort to somebody on the further whackier positions, someone like rand paul. i really do think this is a real fort fit cher, an opportunity to get down the middle. >> but here is the thing, chris. chris christie is a fantastic general election candidate. he is someone who could go up a hillary clinton or a governor o'malley or governor cuomo, whoever runs on the democratic side and really fight them vote for vote across the country. the only problem is, and his first read i think accurately points out, chris christie can't get the republican nomination. he is not loved by the republican party base, the far right base. those are folks who viewed him with suspicion because of what he did at the republican convention in tampa, speaking more about helms than the nominee, mitt romney, who they didn't really like to begin
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with. but also, they don't like him because of what happened in the final days of the campaign when sandy hit, devastated new jersey, and the governor wrapped his arms around president obama. that made christie more of a national figure because he put politics aside and put the people of new jersey first. but it really riled the base. so the notion that chris christie was going to walk to the republican nomination and be the nominee is a stretch, has always been a stretch. >> i don't think he looks good in neither the beginnings nor the end. thank you so much alex wagner and jonathan capehart for opening the show up. coming up, from chris christie's political problems to his coming legal problems. this is "hardball," the place for politics. ♪
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welcome back to "hardball." the legal mushroom cloud surrounding chris christie continues to grow.
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subpoenas are out is there flying more, than 20 of them. investigations are broadening the house, the senate of new jersey and the u.s. government. and according to "the washington post," the big guy in trenton is telling his supporters nonetheless he can still win in 2016 for the presidency. in other words, he thinks he can get through the mess. he is laying the groundwork so if he can beat the legal rap, he can still run, he thinks. isn't that a daungt if for christie? here is what would have to happen for him to get through scot-free here. that there is nothing to link him to the chain of events of any of the case. that there is nothing to cast down his assertion that he really did believe his staff when they told him traffic was shut down for four days because of some hastily concocted traffic study. that there is no conflicting testimony from his aides, including bridget kelly and samson who have recruited some of the fiercest defense attorneys in the country. there is nothing in the documents to turn up further leads, and there is no truth to "the wall street journal" story from the fall that he personally tried to shut down the port authority's investigation into the matter by calling up the
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governor of new york. well, these are the big questions. what are the odds he is clean on all fronts? and what are the odds he can still be a presidential contender? what are the odds he'll even make to it 2016? mark halperin and david jones. both are msnbc political analysts. you know, i'm looking at the numbers. we'll get to them for a minute, mark, and you study these numbers better than i do. in new jersey, they think where there is smoke, there is fire. they're used to new jersey politics, usually democrat, but this this case republican. and they do assume if a guy is running the show, he has something to do with designing the show. they just believe that. here we have these numbers that it's unlikely that that a number of voters in new jersey say he didn't know anything about this. so here we have this problem of the stink around this question. if he doesn't get indicted but there is still the stink because all this stuff went on, and other people are indicted and convicted, can he still run for president with some indictments floating around in new jersey, even if it's not indicting him? let me see where the bar lies.
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>> whether he is indied or not is a distant question. the u.s. attorney who is christie's successor in the job, paul fishman is by all accounts a very cautious guy. i don't think we're looking at an indictment of governor christie any time soon if ever. i think it's more about his credibility. a lot of the things you laid out, almost every one, chris, not a legal question, although it will be picked over by the prosecutor and by the investigative committee in the legislature. i think it's all about governor christie's credibility. if he is going to run in 2016, he is going to have to come out of this having looked nerve the country in the eye and said he didn't know about stuff. if people close to him did dumb things, he'll pay a price, but he can survive that. if his credibility is torn at, i think that's a very big problem for him. >> so you're saying he doesn't have to be indicted to basically be scratched from the list, but he has to be what? how bad does he have to be stuck to these various charges? >> well, look, a big problem he has now is it's clear that the u.s. attorney is going to aggressively broaden his investigation. he broadened it to deal with
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hoboken pretty quickly, a day after the mayor appeared on msnbc he broadened the investigation. i think he will be under some pressure to follow new leads places. but to me, i say again, whatever culpability people close to governor christie has, it's about credibility. did he tell the truth in december when in a series of events, it strains the credulity of a lot of people, even people who like governor christie and would like to support him for government. if he continues to tell the truth, even if there were bad judgments made, he can survive that. this is an extraordinarily weak republican field. >> against that field, anybody can get in, basically. let me go to david on this. it seems to me he faces a number of vulnerabilities. if anyone of his serious associates, whether it's bridget kelly or samson or any of these fellows or women, if any one of them comes out and becomes the john dean of this event a la watergate and states credibly that they had a conversation with the governor in which he was clearly aware there is games being played about the bridge or
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with regard to hoboken and the relief money, it seems to me it takes one bullet politically to bring him down. >> his credential effort, whatever you want to call it at this stage of the game has to be in state of suspended animation. >> but it's not. >> actually, i think it is. i would be very surprised if a lot of big money people are going to start opening their pockets up soon. why? because he and his associates are now targets, subjects of interest, topics, whatever you want to call it for several investigations. not just bridgegate. and as long as this -- these things can take months, if not years to resolve themselves. you know, i thought his chances as a presidential prospect in the tea party republican party were already lower than a lot of other people thought. but one thing. i'm electable. i can appeal to the other side. but now people are going to look at him and say hey, your numbers are terrible with democrats and independents, and there is still
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this investigation going. today a story that you haven't gotten to yet, there is a story in the new jersey media that money from sandy relief funds went to a senior citizens center that had nothing to do with sandy recovery in a town where the mayor had endorsed chris christie. is anything wrong with that? i don't know. but anything that has happened under his watch in the last two, three, four years -- >> does that look like favoritism? >> is going to be investigated. listen, what happens when you start getting criminal investigations run by the u.s. attorney, people start telling you things. it may not even be about the subject at hand, but people start scurrying, self-preservation, self-protection kicks in. as long as there are these active investigations of chris christie, i think he is spinning his wheels, and we won't know for half the year, if not a year or longer whether he can get any traction ever again as a potential candidate. >> first of all, look at these national polls. they're even worse for christie than they are in jersey. together a new usa pew poll, 58%
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say they do not believe christie had no knowledge of his aides' involvement in the bridge closing. but only 32 take christie's word at it. that's probably his political base there. i do think new jersey probably doesn't help him. and i do think the idea of big city politics, eastern state politics, people say yeah, did he play some games there? yeah, probably. it looks like he did this. doesn't seem like above a politician there, below a politician here. i just get the feeling how did somebody out in wyoming know the guy is guilty? your thoughts. >> if these cases get resolve and he is shown to have shown to tell the truth and he is not indicted or face anything criminal threat, i think the polls will turn around. >> and bridget kelly swings and samson swings. in other words, his coterie can go down and he won't. >> i think it depends on how close it gets to him. it's going to get closer to him almost definitely because she could not have acted alone. no one who knows her think shes act aid lone. the investigation is going to get bigger and broader and
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closer to him. but i say again, it's a weak republican field. i think david is right today. chris christie cannot be as aggressive as he was going to be. i think he was going to become the de facto front-runner. i think the tea party thing is overrated. the problem now is he simply must focus on governing much more than he would have wanted to. he does not have a strong group around him. his lieutenant governor can't govern the state in his absence effectively for any lent of time. >> wouldn't he be the biggest pinata in history if he were the political nominee? >> he faces a lot of questions now. we have to see if it's resolved. no one is going to get ahead of him, unless jeb bush gets in this race aggressively and starts lining up people in early states and donors, there is not another name out there who at the end othis year, if chris christie does nothing is going to be so far ahead of chris christie that he can't catch up. >> let me disagree slightly with mark, just slightly. >> you totally disagree with him. >> on this particular point, i do think that christie needed to spend this year making some inroads to the primary
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electorate base of the republicans which are tea party folks, just to sort of give him a better chance. he has the establishment. he had the money lined up. >> the tea party is weaker than it was four years ago when mitt romney got nominated. >> i still think that's where the voters are. i still think when it comes to the caucuses and early primaries, he needed to have some foothold there. not a lot. he didn't have to win. but he had to make some progress. i think of what you just said now, he is going to have no ability to do that jumping in at the end. he may still have a shot, but it would be less strong, weaker than if he had spent this year doing what he needed to make -- >> everybody who sits in an audience now until these indictments come up or don't come up is going to be look at this guy with a question mark. that's what they're going to be doing. >> yes. >> thank you, mark halperin. thank you dave corn. >> sure. is the stakes are high for the president. history hasn't been kind to republicans who delivered their party's response. did you notice?
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back to "hardball." and now for the sideshow. expectations are high for president obama's state of the union address tonight. the event, which we'll carry here on msnbc at 9:00 is an opportunity for the president, obviously, to lay out his agenda for the country and to try to get congress on board. but it's also a tradition for the party that is out of the white house to deliver a rebuttal after the state of the union each year. while those speeches lack the setting and spectacle of a real presidential address, they can be a good way to use the media's wall to wall coverage to reach a large audience that traditionally tunes in. we know all that but in recent years, the republican response has been ineffective and clumsy, don't you think? overshadowed often by unforced errors and shoddy performances. let's take a look back at the big three, the top three highlights since president obama took the presidency. first up is bobby jindal's response in 2009.
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at the time, the louisiana governor was widely seen as an early front-runner for the republican nomination in 2012. but his awkward body language, forced delivery, and some say cheesy laugh lines earned him criticism from republicans and democrats alike. >> like the president's father, my own parents came to this country from a distant land. when they arrived in baton rouge, my mother was already four and a half months pregnant. i was what folks in the insurance industry now call a preexisting condition. >> next up is michele bachmann who delivered the first tea party rebuttal to the state of the union. the congresswoman's performance felt disconnect and vapid some say, in part because the entire speech was delivered to the wrong camera. >> and i believe that america is the indispensable nation of the world. just the creation of this nation itself was a miracle. who can say that we don't see a
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miracle again? >> why didn't somebody say look at the right camera? finally, it's not often that a single moment can effectively derail an entire speech, but that's exactly what some people say happened to marco rubio last year when that thirsty young senator from florida suddenly lurched for a bottle of waterway off stage right, all the while keeping his eye contact with the camera. it's like he is a golfer. it quickly became the only highlight from that speech. >> in a short time that i've been here in washington, nothing has frustrated me more than false choices like the one the president laid out tonight. the choice isn't just between big government or big business. what we need is an accountable, efficient, and effective government. >> wow. anyway, this year the republicans plan to give not one, but three rebuttals to the state of the union. official republican response, a tea party response, and one from senator rand paul. we'll see how they do. anyway, up next, the very high stakes tonight for president obama. he's got to do something big to get democrats energized again
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and to save the senate. he could lose it this november. you're watching "hardball," the place for politics. id you run into traffic? no, just had to stop by the house to grab a few things. you stopped by the house? uh-huh. yea. alright, whenever you get your stuff, run upstairs, get cleaned up for dinner. you leave the house in good shape? yea. yea, of course. ♪ [ sportscaster talking on tv ] last-second field go-- yea, sure ya did. [ male announcer ] introducing at&t digital life. personalized home security and automation. get professionally monitored security for just $29.99 a month. with limited availability in select markets. ♪ in fact, they depend on a unique set of nutrients. [ male announcer ] that's why there's ocuvite to help protect your eye health. as you age, your eyes can lose vital nutrients. ocuvite helps replenish key eye nutrients. ocuvite is a vitamin made just for your eyes from the eye care experts as bausch + lomb. ocuvite has a unique formula that's just not found in any leading multivitamin. your eyes are unique,
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i'm milissa rehberger. here is what is happening. a winter blast is slamming the southern u.s., bringing freezing temperatures to the region. the conditions closed schools from texas to the carolinas and canceled thousands of flights. louisiana has declared a state of emergency as did three other states including alabama. authorities in affected areas have asked people to stay off of the roads. virginia beach could get as much as a foot of snow and ocean city, maryland, could see half a foot by wednesday. now back to "hardball." welcome back. mr. president, go big. that's my message to president obama tonight as he gets set to deliver his state of the union in just about 90 minutes from now. the stakes are incredibly high.
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the president faces the prospect, of course, of a devastating year politically with the possibility, a real one he could lose the u.s. senate this coming november. i'll go over the numbers with you if you want. his challenge tonight is to excite democrats ahead of the elections in november. how does he do it? well, he can reestablish himself as the president of the united states, stop going for the politics of small, propose something big. if the republicans say no, make them the bad guys. don't say no to yourself. make them say no to you. that could be the winning strategy for next year as well. rachel maddow will be joining me, we'll be joining each other along with al sharpton, steve hayes and steve schmidt for full coverage of president obama's state of the union. at midnight we'll have a special late-night edition of "hardball" to go through all the politics tonight including who won and who lost. joining me right now is robert gibbs and msnbc political analyst, and howard fineman, editorial director for "the huffington post." he is also an msnbc political analyst. i want to go to howard because he has a bit further outside
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position, the new robert. i want him to know he gets the first full blast of this because i read his pre-interview. in short language, when loyalists to the president tune in at 9:00 tonight and listen for an hour or so, what will they expect to feel emotionally from this president, emotionally? >> that he is still in the ball game. chris, i think you want him to go big. my sense from being over at the white house today and getting a feel for things is that their intent is to put one foot in front of the other, do things that the president can do on his own, be busy, be active, be concrete, tangible things like -- excuse me, like the minimum wage for federal workers, increase and so forth. and rely on what everyone expects to be a better economy this year. rely on republicans to get caught up in their own internal struggles. make a virtue of necessity here, because the congress is going to
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be difficult for the president to work with. if he pounds the table paradoxically, republicans run the other way. i had an aide tell me today that while the president is not going to go big and go strong and go table pounding on extending unemployment insurance, because if he does that, there is even less of a chance of a deal. so you may want him to go big. you may want him to be teddy roosevelt all over again in 2014. i don't get the sense that's what he is going to do. some democrats may be disappointed, but this president plays a deep game, and he is hoping that kind of thing and a rising economy will keep the democrats in decent shape come the fall. i don't know if it's going to work, but that's their strategy. >> well, let me give you my position. my position is everybody, the people who like the republicans, they say the country is going in the wrong direction, whether it's the koch brothers or the regular guy, the woman on the street corner who needs a job, they're rooting against the president because the big no to them sounds like a big yes. if we get rid of this guy, we
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get rid of the demographic changes in the country. well get rid of government spending. we get rid of taxation, we get rid of all kinds of things we don't like. all of the sudden it's nirvana. that's what the republicans promise by not being specific. get rid of this guy and all you're dreams will be answered. i think the president has to be just as big and say if the republicans would get the hell out of my way, we would rebuild this country, big-time. and here is my proposal. and the only reason we're not doing it is them. make them say. no as i said, the kids at graduation, never say no to yourself. make the other guy say no to you. that's my philosophy. what's the president's? >> i think one of the concerns you have to have if you're the white house is if your agenda seems overly modest, then your presidency will be seen as overly modest. and thing is a huge danger in the white house for something like that. look, i think the biggest thing, one of the biggest things the president has to do tonight when he is speaking to the american people is give them a real sense that what he is talking about is not only what they care about,
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but there is a pathway to getting some of that done. and as you said, if there isn't a pathway to getting all of it done, then there is a villain for why that didn't happen. i think that has to be what sets up the rest of 2014. but i think the president's got to give a real sense to the american people that he's got a focused plan. i think last year was in many way an unfocused year, a lost year in his presidency. and quite frankly, with the clock ticking as it is, he can't afford to repeat in 2014 what happened in 2013. >> okay, howard, let's go through the next couple of weeks, the next couple of months, the next year. in the next couple of weeks, will something get done? will he do an executive order among minimum wage among federal contractors? >> yes, chris. >> government has to pay at least 10 bucks an hour. >> and in terms of focus. everything the president is going to talk about tonight pretty much is going to be focused on concrete steps that he can do as president that will try to do things for working people in america.
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jobs, job training, education, outreach to other countries to bring jobs here. >> how is he going to create jobs? >> well, he is going to -- first of all, it's interesting. he's going to try to draw on the private sector and the nonprofit sector to train people to hire people to look for new ways to spur manufacturing and so forth through research. i mean, that's what he is going to do. i'm struck by the fact that there is not going to be any big talk tonight about grand bargains on entitlements, about sweeping tax reform, about climate change, about all that other stuff. my sense of it is it's going to be very specific and narrowly focused to give the president small incremental achievements that he can brag about to try to lift himself out of the mess he is in with the 43% approval rating. it's very simple, chris.
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a president of the sixth year with a 43% approval rating isn't taken seriously by anybody around town. you got to get out of that one step at a time. that's the white house's theory. >> okay. >> and they're also relying on an economy that they think is going to get better during the course of the year. >> you know what it sounds like, howard, and tell me if it's right, robert, the white house is like a really skilled veteran baseball manager who says you got to get a runner on, bunt him on or whatever it takes. get the walk. and then advance him to second. put him in scoring position, and hope somebody can hit a strong single and bring him in. and up against strong pitching, that may win the game, if that's all you got. is that the way it's going? he is not going to swing for the fences. he is not going to be babe ruth this year, not going to be hank aaron. just going get a single like like richie ashburn. >> i knew richie ashburn was going to get in here. >> explain this baseball manager called president right now. >> i think the analogy is an apt one. look, largely because the republicans are not going to
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give him big pitches to hit home runs with. so whether it is richie ashburn or whether it's the modern version of moneyball, a walk to first means a runner on first. a single means a runner on first and maybe you can move a runner to third. i think what howard is describing is exactly as he said rightly, this president needs to instill confidence in the american people that what happened in 2013, disarray, buffeted by crisis, indecision on syria, a website on health care that was a disaster isn't going to be repeated in 2014 because with a very small amount of time with which to accomplish something, if those things transpire in 2014 as they did last year, the last grains of the sand will go out of the hourglass in terms of any time the president has to accomplish anything important. >> he holds the senate, he has
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won. if he loses the senate by a single vote, it could be arkansas, it could be north carolina, it could be alaska. if he loses six senators this year, he is out to lunch with the u.s. congress. then he will have to do things by executive order. thank you, robert gibbs for coming on. >> yes, sir. >> thank you, howard for the great homework. up next, the expert coming here. chuck schumer. he is on deck. and this is "hardball," the place for politics. welcome back. how is everything? there's nothing like being your own boss! and my customers are really liking your flat rate shipping. fedex one rate. really makes my life easier. maybe a promotion is in order.
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and go. and only national is ranked highest in car rental customer satisfaction by j.d. power. (natalie) ooooh, i like your style. (vo) so do we, business pro. so do we. go national. go like a pro. we're back. as president obama takes to podium tonight, he'll be carrying the mantle of the democratic party that is fighting for its political future, if not its life. the republican party's mainstream infrastructure, the strategists, the rnc's army, the billionaires who fund the attack ads, they all have one mission this year, grab the senate. if they do, it's game over for the president's agenda, of course, and his party's agenda. republicans need to pick up six seats to pick up the gavel. the senate will control it. at of this moment, the battlefield is tilted in their direction. take a look at this. according to the respected cook political report, democrats could lose nine seats this year, while republicans could lose just two.
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that's a net seven pickup. on the democratic side, one race is rated likely republican in south dakota. two races are currently rated as leaning republican, and that includes montana and west virginia. in all three states, the democratic incumbent is retiring. in arkansas, mark pryor's trailing tom cotton. the congressman in some polls, and senator carl levin is retiring in mission. both of those races are rated as toss-ups. imagine michigan being a toss-up. and democrats are holding on to tenuous leads in four states. mark begich which is red, kay hague begin in red north carolina, and then iowa where tom harkin is retiring. all these races are listed as leaning democrat. that's scanty. on the other side of the legislature, democrats have their eyes on two republican seats. of course, the biggie up in kentucky. mitch mcconnell facing a formidable democratic challenger in alison lundergan grimes, and michelle nun has emerged as a strong contender to pick off a seat there. where republicans -- task saxby
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cam police is leaving. now as much as democrats are relying on president obama tonight to help level the playing field, they're also pinning much of their hopes on the vision of this guy, senator chuck schumer of new york. he is the top leader in party and considered by in me the party as the top political guru. i do. i put you on a pedestal, senator. here's my question for you. what's the best thing the president can do tonight to save the senate? >> focus on the middle class like a laser. the number one issue in the 2014 elections is not going to be obamacare and not going to be the deficit. the two issues that have dominated the last two years. it's going to be which party can best give the middle class hope that the american dream is alive and well. that if they work hard, they'll be doing better five years from now than they're doing today. right now i think we have the edge. i think that's where the president will focus as you said. it won't be grandiose, it will be very specific and it will divide the two parties. it will show which side people are on. who's for the minimum wage. who's for the federal government
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helping out families get their kids to college. who's for a trade policy that is for fair trade, not free trade, alone. >> well, a little birdie told me today the president really believes the stimulus of some kind. he doesn't have a plan for it. he does believe we need more demand in our economy. you're a keynesian, you're a keynesian. i believe this economy needs a little push. how tdo the democrats give it that in a big sense between now and november? how do you push the economy further if it's lagging still? >> well, we do need a stimulus, but i'm afraid that our republican colleagues have been against that. so the ideas are going to be a little smaller, but ones that are so popular, not only popular with democrats and independents, but with rank and file republicans, that he'll be able to get a few of them through. and, again, chris, what's so interesting here is the american people are crying out for someone to talk to their needs. not to be meshed in the washington game of who's wrong, who's right. pointing fingers. whoever is able to connect with them and say, i have some plans
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to help you that get out of this morass, get out of this uncharacteristic lack of american optimism will succeed. that's what the president's going to do. that's what we democrats are going to do for the next six months in the senate. i don't think the republican plan, free up the corporations, let them lower their taxes, get red of their regulations, let them go move businesses overseas. let them pollute the environment. let them treat their workers poorly is going to work. >> let me throw a hardball down the middle. >> you bet. >> what's your party going to do for the parent whose kids are graduating from school, early 20s, walking into a job market that's pretty rough. how does the democratic party position itself to help those young men and women try to get started in this country? >> the president will be able to do some programs, hopefully they'll pass the congress. that give people the training they need for the jobs. let's say you got out of a community college. there's a desperate shortage of welders, of people with some
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mathematical skills who can do these jobs and companies that are going thirsty. we're going to provide programs to give them those jobs. we've done it in new york state. we got a grant for community colleges to survey businesses. see what jobs they wanted. then train people. and it's been hugely successful. programs like that are going to be replicated nationally. and they're common sense. the average person understands that that's what's needed. >> let's take a look at president obama's approval ratings in some of the states democrats have to defend in the senate. arkansas, 35% approval for the president. alaska, 34%. montana, 33%. south dakota, 32%. west virginia, 25%. isn't that the biggest challenge the president has to re-elect senators in his party in states that people won't vote for him? in fact, vote against him 3-1. >> that is a big challenge. i predict if the president does what he says, will his numbers be spectacular, sky high? no. they'll be certainly better than they are now. and able to sustain good, strong
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candidacies. the one thing we have going for us, every one of those incumb t incumbents you named is a good candidate. >> yeah. >> they're really strong. they know their states. they have much more popularity than others. kay hagan had $6 million of negative ads thrown at her. she hasn't spent a nickel in response and she's ahead of her opponent. imagine when she goes on the air and is able to answer some of these ads with a specific plan for the middle class. >> well, i hope she does well because for some weird reason, north carolina which was moderating over the last few years has gone hard right again. i don't know what the hell is going on. >> yeah. we think it's gone too hard right and the pendulum is swinging back this year. >> great to have you on, chuck. >> great, chis. >> thanks for coming on tonight. we'll be right back after this. i'm nathan and i quit smoking with chantix.
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let me finish tonight with this. president obama is going to focus tonight on opportunity. he's going to push and promise what he says will remove obstacles to the american dream. he'll make it easier for those ready to make the effort to reach their life's goals. part of it has to do with the workplace, as chuck schumer just said. the president is going to issue an executive order raising the government-honored minimum wage above $10 and push the congress to legislate the same rage rate hike for the private sector and push to restore jobless benefits to the long term unemployed. there's more, of course, coming tonight. the gist of it is to help people move up the economic scale. it's not about the safety net tonight, it's about a pathway to something better. i think this is the president's compromise with taking a much
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tougher stance tonight against what looms now as a vast and growing inequality, economically in this country. the exponential growth of those at the very top and then that 47% still struggling to keep things together in their lives. there's the concern, i guess, on his part that to talk powerfully about inequality is to invite the premise he'd fight for the next three years to raise taxes not just on the better off or best off, but also the better off. that could scare voters. he needs to get improvements in the lives of those who need a boost in their basic prospects, who need wages hiked, may need income support, unemployment benefits that gets them out there looking for a job. this is going to be a big night for america and the american dream. has a lot going for it in terms of viewer interest for the basic reason it's about what people watching tonight generally spend their nights and days worrying about. that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. join me and rachel maddow in one hour for coverage of the president's state of the union address at 9:00 eastern.
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stay up late tonight for a special midnight edition of "hardball," we'll look at all the politics tonight, who won, who lost in our usual crisp way, as well as chris way. "all in with chris hayes" starts right now. good evening from new york. i'm chris hayes. and at this very moment, president barack obama and his speechwriters have just put the finishing touches on what will be the president's fifth state of the union address. the house of representatives will begin filling shortly with members of both houses and both parties along with invited dignitaries, military officials, members of the supreme court, and ordinary citizens who've been asked to attend. members of all three branches of government convene on this night at a time when the worst years of violent, terrifying war and spiraling financial chaos are behind us. but at a moment of historic levels of political polarization. when a majority of the nati

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